What does the Government update mean?
What has changed?

The government has updated guidance on working safely during the coronavirus pandemic. With lots of news reports and online speculation, it can be hard to know what these updates mean for businesses, we are here to help you through this and have answered some questions you may have.

Has the 2-metre distance changed to 1-metre?

No. The prime minister announced 2m distancing should be maintained where possible and 1m+ only applies when 2m is truly impossible e.g. in communal stairwells, narrow corridors, or where appropriate measures (such as Perspex screens, redesign of workstations and as a final measure, PPE) are in place to allow for reduced distancing.

Can my employees return to the workplace?

It depends, employers have a responsibility to ensure the workplace is COVID-19 Secure before asking employees to return. Business Secretary Alok Sharma said he expected people to continue to use “common sense” and follow government guidelines. But he reiterated there is a legal duty for businesses to keep their employees safe and the Health and Safety Executive could take action if not.

Working Safely – Key Changes from 23rd July update
  • changes to the rules working from home
  • Ventilation
  • When to wear face coverings
  • Disposing of face coverings and PPE
  • Work-related travel
  • Shielded workers able to return to a COVID-19 Secure workplace
  • Visitor records to be kept for 21 days

The Government has now produced easily digested documents with information on each sector. The document for offices can be found here and other sectors can be found from this page, just head to the ‘Download this guidance’ link.

Changes to the rules on working from home

Businesses and workplaces should make every reasonable effort to ensure their employees can work safely.

From 1st August 2020, this may be working from home, or within the workplace if COVID-19 Secure guidelines are followed closely.

When in the workplace, everyone should make every reasonable effort to comply with the social distancing guidelines set out by the government (2m, or 1m with risk mitigation where 2m is not viable).

Employers should ensure workplaces are safe whilst also enabling working from home.

In order to keep the virus under control, it is important that people work safely.

Working from home remains one way to do this. However, the risk of transmission can be substantially reduced if COVID-19 secure guidelines are followed closely.

Employers should consult with their employees to determine who, from the 1st August 2020, can come into the workplace safely taking account of a person’s use of public transport, childcare responsibilities, protected characteristics, and other individual circumstances.

Extra consideration should be given to those people at higher risk. When it is decided that workers should come into their place of work then this will need to be reflected in the COVID-19 risk assessment and actions taken to manage the risks of transmission in line with this guidance. It is vital employers engage with workers to ensure they feel safe returning to work, and they should avoid forcing anyone into an unsafe workplace.


Objective: To use ventilation to mitigate the transmission risk of COVID-19.

Ventilation into the building should be optimised to ensure a fresh air supply is provided to all areas of the facility and increased wherever possible. Ventilation systems should provide an adequate supply of fresh air.

Steps that will usually be needed:

1.      Increasing the existing ventilation rate by adjusting the fan speed.
2.      Operating the ventilation system when there are people in the building.
3.      Monitoring and managing filters in accordance to manufacturer instructions.
4.      Keeping doors and windows open if possible.
5.      Using ceiling fans or desk fans to improve air circulation, provided there is good ventilation.

When to wear face coverings

Employers should support their workers in using face coverings safely if they choose to wear one. This means telling workers:

  • wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser before putting a face covering on, and before and after removing it
  • when wearing a face covering, avoid touching your face or face covering, as you could contaminate them with germs from your hands
  • change your face covering if it becomes damp or if you’ve touched it
  • continue to wash your hands regularly
  • change and wash your face covering daily
  • if the material is washable, wash in line with manufacturer’s instructions. If it’s not washable, dispose of it carefully in your usual waste practise social distancing wherever possible

Please be mindful that the wearing of a face covering may inhibit communication with people who rely on lip reading, facial expressions and clear sound.

Disposing of face coverings and PPE

Providing extra non recycling bins for workers and visitors to dispose of single use face coverings and PPE

You should refer to guidance for information on how to dispose of personal or business waste, including face coverings and PPE

Work-related travel

Objective: To avoid unnecessary work travel and keep people safe when they do need to travel between locations.

Steps that will usually be needed:

    1. Walking or cycling where possible. When not possible, you can use public transport or drive. You must wear a face covering when using public transport.
    2. Cleaning shared vehicles between shifts or on handover.
    3. Minimising the number of people outside your household, or support bubble, travelling together in any one vehicle, using fixed travel partners, increasing ventilation when possible and avoiding sitting face-to-face.
    4. Where workers are required to stay away from their home, centrally logging the stay and making sure any overnight accommodation meets social distancing guidelines.

The government has also said that shielded workers can return to work from the 1st August, providing their employer has consulted with them and made sure the premises are COVID-19 Secure.

If your business has visitors on the premises, please ensure that you record their details and keep these records for 21 days.

Do you need further support in making your business COVID-19 Secure? We are able to help you through this. We have several COVID-19 packages specially designed to help SME businesses through this difficult time. Contact Sandhya Iyer at HR Dept on sandhya.iyer@hrdept.co.uk M: 07880 497 825 T: 01892 629 669